However, instead of using sterile water, she used tap water that had been run through a store-bought filter. "Within 1 week she was more somnolent and then became comatose...."
A 69-year-old Seattle woman died after she contracted a rare brain-eating amoeba from using tap water in a neti pot.
"When I operated on this lady, a section of her brain about the size of a golf ball was bloody mush", neurosurgeon Charles Cobbs told the Seattle Times.
'We didn't have any clue what was going on, but when we got the actual tissue, we could see it was the amoeba'. A CT scan showed an abnormal lesion in her brain that indicated she might have a tumor, so doctors sent a sample of tissue for testing.
Most cases of brain-eating amoebas have been found in places like California, Arizona and Texas but Dr. Cobbs did say that over time, because of climate change, the amoeba could learn to survive in cooler areas like in Washington state. Although this is extremely rare, an elderly person persistently flushing unsterilized water up their nose is a sure fire way to raise those odds.
The specific amoeba that killed the Seattle woman moves slowly, which is why it went undetected for a year. "There's been about 200 cases world-wide", Dr. Cobb said.
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Lab results later revealed that the infection in her brain and nose rash were caused by an amoeba called Balamuthia mandrillaris, which is often associated with a disease called granulomatous amoebic encephalitis (GAE), according to the Center for Disease Control. Doctors thought it was a rash and prescribed an antibiotic ointment, but that provided no relief.
Cobbs said it's theoretically possible for other people to be infected with the same deadly amoeba, but that it's a very, very rare occurrence. "At this point, the family chose to withdraw support".
Health officials say Neti pots can be safe to use as long as you follow the instructions and fill them only with boiled or distilled water. "She wasn't boiling the water or using sterile saline, she was filtering it, but maybe somehow it got contaminated". "So that's what we suspect is the source of the infection", Cobbs said, according to KIRO.
Now a case study recently published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases has shed light on how the amoeba entered her brain.
The woman's doctors say they weren't able to definitely link the infection to her neti pot, as the water supply to her home was not tested for the amoeba.